Battle of Claremore Mound
The Battle of Claremore Mound, also known as the Battle of the Strawberry Moon, or the Claremore Mound Massacre, was one of the chief battles of the war between the Osage and Cherokee Indians. It occurred in June 1817,[a] when a band of Western Cherokee and their allies under Chief Spring Frog (Too-an-tuh) attacked Pasuga, an Osage village at the foot of Claremore Mound (in present-day Rogers County, Oklahoma). During the two-day battle, the Cherokee killed or captured every member of Chief Clermont's band and destroyed everything they could not carry away. Historians consider it one of the bloodiest Native American massacres in modern history.
Conflict between Osage and Cherokee
On November 19, 1808, at Fort Clark, Kansas, the Osage Nation made a treaty with the United States, ceding all of its land east of a line that ran south from Fort Clark to the Arkansas River and all of its land west of the Missouri River.[b] The land reserved to the Osage Nation was further reduced by treaties signed at St. Louis (June 2, 1825, Fort Gibson (January 11, 1839) and Canville, Kansas (September 29, 1865).
According to Eaton, the Osage established two main villages about 1800, when they migrated to the area between the Verdigris and Grand rivers. These were called Pasona (near present-day Claremore, Oklahoma) and Pasuga (at the foot of Claremore Mound).[c]
About 1760, a portion of the Cherokee people, who had been living in the Southeastern United States, had begun moving to land claimed by other tribes west of the Mississippi River. This produced a long period of conflict between the Western Cherokee (as the migrants had become known) and the Osage, a more warlike tribe who had dominated the Plains area in today's Kansas, southwestern Missouri and northeastern Oklahoma. Soon the Osage began raiding Cherokee towns, stealing horses, carrying off captives (usually women and children), and killing others, trying to drive out the invaders. Cherokees retaliated in kind, but were ineffective at stopping the raids. By 1817, an estimated three thousand Western Cherokees had settled in the area known as Arkansas.
The Cherokee-led attack
In January 1817 the Arkansas Cherokee began planning a retaliatory attack against the Osage and began asking their relatives from the east to aid them in a battle against the Osage. They also asked for help from the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Delaware, and others, including whites, .
The Cherokee knew that Osage men left their villages lightly guarded during the Strawberry Moon to go on a long-distance hunt for bison.[d] Therefore, this would be the most opportune time to attack.
The Cherokee were enraged by the treatment they had endured at the hands of the Osage, which helped offset the greater numbers of the Osage had. The Cherokee had another advantage as they had acquired more modern weapons - rifles - and were well-experienced in their use. The Osage relied on traditional bows and arrows, as well as a small number of old muskets.
Some 500 Cherokee, along with a number of Choctaw, Chickasaw and whites, convened at a place on the Arkansas River. (The modern city of Russellville, Arkansas developed here.) They traveled upriver into Indian Territory and went overland to the Osage villages.[e] After luring a representative of the Southern Osage away from the village, the invading party attacked, killing thirty-eight Osage and taking one hundred and four captives.[f] According to Eaton, Chief Clermont was present at the time of the attack and was killed during the fighting. He was later buried on Claremore Mound. Another source indicates that Pasuga was attacked first, and that the inhabitants of Pasona had been alerted by the sounds and smells of smoke when the marauders burned the village. The Pasugans hid in a cave previously discovered and prepared as a hideout by Black Dog, who had gone on the buffalo hunt. Thus, they survived the raid on their village and could care for the few survivors from Pasuga.
Most of the Osage warriors had been out on the hunt when their village was decimated. In an attempt to maintain peace with the U.S. government, they chose not to retaliate immediately. The Osage who were taken captive were sold to the eastern Cherokee for payment for their contributions in the battle. In December of the same year the United States started constructing Fort Smith between the Cherokee and Osage settlements. The following summer, the US forced the Osage to cede more land to the Cherokee who were settling in the area, apparently because of their victory at Claremore Mound.
In December 1818, the U.S. government began construction of a fort on the Arkansas River, close to the western border of Arkansas Territory. When completed, Fort Smith was staffed with troops whose primary mission was to prevent further hostilities between the Osage and the Western Cherokee. In 1824, this function was transferred to Fort Gibson, which was built near the confluence of the Grand and Verdigris rivers in Indian Territory. Fort Smith was abandoned until a replacement was constructed several years later.
The Osage continued to live in the area until they moved to the Osage Reservation in 1839.
The Oklahoma Historical Society erected a marker at the site of the battle. It is on State Highway 88, about 4.2 miles (6.8 km) north of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore. Coordinates of the marker are: .
- May's article in the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture states that the battle occurred in the month of November, but this conflicts with other sources that indicate the battle occurred in the Strawberry Moon, which is normally in June.
- This cession covered a large part of the present state of Missouri and the northern part of the present state of Arkansas.
- Pasona was the home village of Osage chief, Black Dog, and Pasuga was the home of Osage war chief, Clermont, and his family of four wives and thirty-seven children.
- North American natives had given this name to the month of June because that was the time for picking wild strawberries.
- According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the attacking force totaled about 700 men.
- According to May's article, the chief and most of his men had gone from the villages to hunt bison when the attack occurred. The last leg of the journey was by night. The attackers arrived at Pasona about midnight, only to find the village deserted. They pressed on toward Pasuga, which they reached before dawn. Surprising the dozing guards, the attackers charged into the village, routing the inhabitants. A massacre ensued, continuing well into the day. When the defense broke, the villagers tried to escape across the Verdigris River. According to Eaton, the Cherokees pursued their prey for almost two days. According to May, the attackers killed eighty Osage, including 69 women and children, took a hundred captives, then burned the village.
- Eaton, Rachel Caroline. "The Legend of the Battle of Claremore Mound", Chronicles of Oklahoma 8:4 (December 1930) 369-376 (retrieved August 16, 2006).
- Rollings, Willard H. The Osage: An Ethnohistorical Study of Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains (University of Missouri Press, 1992), pp. 230–255
- Mathews, John Joseph. The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters. (University of Oklahoma Press, 1961) pp. 416–418
- "Battle of Claremore Mound" Native News Today, 13 February 2013; Accessed 13 March 2016.
- Eaton, Rachel Caroline. "The Legend of the Battle of Claremore Mound", Chronicles of Oklahoma. Volume 8, Number 4, December, 1930.] Accessed March 12, 2016.
- May, Jon D. "Claremore Mound, Battle of," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Accessed March 13, 2016
- Smith, Pat. "Why is June called the Strawberry Moon?" USA Today, 3 June 2015; Accessed 14 March 2015.
- Burns, Louis F. A History of the Osage People. p. 67. (2004) University of Alabama Press. Tuscaloosa, Alabama. ISBN 0-8173-1319-2. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- Historical Marker Database, "Claremore Mound" Accessed March 13, 2016.